UC Santa Barbara Loss of Value in the Life of Humans Discussion

In Technics and CivilizationMumford writes “So one is not strainingthe facts when one suggests that the monasteries — at one time there were 40,000 under the Benedictine rule — helped to give human enterprise the regular collective heat and rhythm of the machine; for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, hut ofsynchronizing the actions of men” (Mumford, 14). The “synchronizing” of the actions of people suggests that the regular tolling of clocks is one way of making humans more “machine-like.” With direct reference to this text, I want to know if this is an example of a loss of value in the life of humans or a gain in value. Why or why not?

Books by Lewis Mumford
TI1E STORY OF UTOPIAS 1922
STICKS AND STONES 1924
‘fflE GOLDEN DAY 1926
HERMAN MELVIll.E 1929
TIIE BROWN DECADES 1931
TECHNICS AND CIVILIZATION 1934
Technics
and· Civilization
LEWIS MUMFORD
THE CULTURE OF CITIES 1938
MEN MUST ACT 1939
FAITH FOR LIVING 1940
‘fflE
soum IN ARCHITECTURE
1941
‘fflE CONDITION OF MAN 1944
CITY DEVEI.OPMENT 1945
·VAWESFOR SURVIVAL 1946
GREEN MEMORIES 1947
‘fflE CONDUCTOFUF’E 1951
ART AND TECHNICS 1952
IN TIIE NAME OF SANITY 1954
FROM ‘fflE GROUND UP 1956
TIIE TRANSFORMATIONS OF MAN 1956
‘fflE HUMAN WAY OUT 1958
‘fflE CITY IN HISTORY 1961
‘fflE HIGHWAY AND TIIE CITY 1963
‘fflE URBAN PROSPECT 1968
TIIE MY’ffl OF ‘fflE MACHINE:
I. TECHNICS AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 1,967
II. ‘fflE PENTAGON OF POWER 1970
ROOTS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE 1972
INTERPRETATIONS AND FORECASTS 1973
FINDINGS AND KEEPINGS 1975
MY WORKS AND DAYS 1979
TIIE LEWIS MUMFORD READER 1986
A Harvest Book
Harcourt Brace & Company
San Diego New York London
CHAPTER I.
CULTURAL PREPARATI ON
1: Machines, Utilities, and “The Machine”
I
During the last century the automatic or semi-automatic machine
has come to occupy a large place in our daily routine; and we have
tended to attribute to the physical instrument itself the whole com·
plex of habits and methods that created it and accompanied it.
Almost every discussion of technology from Marx onward has
tended to overemphasize the part played by the more mobile and
active parts of our industrial equipment, and has slighted other
equally critical elements in our technical heritage.
What is a machine? Apart from the simple machines of classic
mechanics, the inclined plane, the pulley, and so forth, the subject
remains a confused one. Many of the writers who have discussed
the machine age have treated the machine as if it were a very recent
phenomenon, and as if the technology of handicraft had employed
only tools to transform the environment. These preconceptions are
baseless. For the last three thousand years, at least, machines have
been an essential part of our older technical heritage. Reuleaux’s
definition of a machine has remained a classic: “A machine is a com­
bination of resistant bodies so arranged that by their means the
mechanical forces of nature can be compelled to do work accom- ·
panied by certain determinant motions”; but it does not take us
very far. Its place is due to his importance as the first great
morphologist of machines, for it leaves out the large class of ma­
chines operated by man-power.
Machines have developed out of a complex of non-organic agents
for converting energy, for performing work, for enlarging the me9
10
TECHNICS AND CIVILIZATION
chanical or sensory capacities of the human body, or for reducing
to a mensurable order and regularity the processes of life. The
automaton is the last step in a process that began with the use of
one part or another of the human body as a tool. In back of the
development of tools and �achines lies the attempt to modify the
environment in such a way as to fortify and sustain the human
organism: the effort is either to extend the powers of the otherwise
unarmed organism, or to manufacture outside of the body a set of
conditions more favorable toward maintaining its equilibrium and
ensuring its survival. Instead of a physiological adaptation to the
cold, like the growth of hair or the habit of hibernation, there is an
environmental adaptation, such as that made possible by the use of
clothes and the erection of shelters.
The essential distinction between a machine and a tool lies in the
degree of independence in the operation from the skill and motive
power of the operator: the tool lends itself to manipulation, the
• machine to automatic action. The degree of complexity is unimpor­
tant: for, using the tool, the human hand and eye perform compli,
cated actions which are the equivalent, in function, of a well de­
veloped machine; while, on the other hand, there are highly effec­
tive machines, like the drop hammer, which do very simple tasks,
with the aid of a relatively simple mechanism. The difference be­
tween tools and machines lies primarily in the degree of automatism
they have reached: the skilled tool-user becomes more accurate and
more automatic, in short, more mechanical, as his originally volun­
tary motions settle down into reflexes, and on the other hand, even
in the most completely automatic machine, there must intervene some­
where, at the beginning and the end of the process, first in the original
design, and finally in the ability to overcome defects and to make
repairs, the conscious participation of a human agent.
Moreover, between the tool and the machine there stands another
class of objects, the machine-tool: here, in the lathe or the drill, one
has the accuracy of the finest machine coupled with the skilled at­
tendance of the workman. When one adds to this mechanical complex
an external source o� power, the line of division becomes even more
difficult to establish. In general, the machine emphasizes specializa-
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CULTURAL PREPARATION
11
tion of function, whereas the tool indicates flexibility: a planing
machine performs only one operation, whereas a knife can be used
to smooth wood, to carve it, to split it, or to pry open a lock, or to
drive in a screw. The automatic machine, then, is a very specialized
kind of adaptation; it involves the notion of an external source of
power, a more or less complicated inter-relation of parts, and a
limited kind of activity. From the beginning the machine was a sort
of minor organism, designed to perform a single set of functions.
Along with these dynamic elements in technology there is another
set, more static in character, but equally important in function.
While the growth of machines is the most patent technical fact of
the last thousand years, the machine, in the form of the fire-drill or
the potter’s wheel, has been in existence since at least neolithic times.
During the earlier period, some of the most effective adaptations of
the environment came, not from the invention of machines, but from
the equally admirable invention of utensils, apparatus, and utilities.
The basket and the pot stand for the first, the dye vat and the brick­
kiln stand for the second, and reservoirs and aqueducts and roads
and buildings belong to the third class. The modern period has finally
given us the power utility, like the railroad track or the electric
transmission line, which functions only through the operation of
power machinery. While tools and machines transform the environ­
ment by changing the shape and location of objects, utensils and
apparatus have been used to effect equally necessary chemical trans­
formations. Tanning, brewing, distilling, dyeing have been as impor­
tant in man’s technical development as smithing or weaving. But
most of these processes remained in their traditional state till the
middle of the nineteenth century, and it is only since then that they
have been influenced in any large degree by the same set of scientific
forces and human interests that were developing the modern power­
machine.
In the series of objects from utensils to utilities there is the same
relation between the workman and the process that one notes in the
series between tools and automatic machines: differences in the
degree of specialization, the degree of impersonality. But since
people’s attention is directed most easily to the noisier and more
{
12
TECHNICS AND CIVILIZATION
CULTURAL PREPARATION
active parts of the environment, the role of the utility and the appa·
ratus has been neglected in most discussions of the machine, or,
what is almost as bad, these technical instruments have all been
clumsily grouped as machines. The point to remember is that both
have played an enormoiis· part in the development of the modern
environment; and at no stage in history can the two means of adapta­
tion be split apart. Every technological complex includes both: not
least our modern one.
When I use the word machines hereafter I shall refer to specific
objects like the printing press or the power loom. When I use the
term “the machine” I shall employ it as a shorthand reference to
the entire technological complex. This will embrace the knowledge
and skills and arts derived from industry or implicated in the new
technics, and will include various forms of tool, instrument, apparatus
and utility as well as machines proper.
lead taken by Salerno in the scientific and medical advances of the
W
Middle Age. It was, however, in the monasteries of the est that
the desire for order and power, other than that expressed in the mili­
tary domination of weaker men, first manifested itself after the long
uncertainty and bloody confusion that attended the breakdown of the
Roman Empire. Within the walls of the monastery was sanctuary:
under the rule of the order surprise and doubt and caprice and
irregularity were put at bay. Opposed to the erratic fluctuations and
pulsations of the worldly life was the iron discipline of the rule.
Benedict added a seventh period to the devotions of the d�y, and in
the seventh century, by a bull of Pope Sabinianus, it was decreed
that the bells of the monastery be rung seven times in the twenty-four
hours. These punctuation marks in the day were known as the canoni·
cal hours, and some means of keeping count of them and ensuring
their regular repetition became·necessary.
According to a now discredited legend, the first modern mechanical clock. worked by falling weights. was invented by the monk
named Gerbert who afterwards became Pope Sylvester II near the
close of the tenth century. This clock was probably only a water
clock, one of those bequests of the ancient world either left over
directly from the days of the Romans, like the water-wheel itself, or
corning back again into the West through the Arabs. But the legend,
as so often happens, is accurate in its implications if not in its facts.
The monastery was the seat of a regular life, and an instrument for
striking the hours at intervals or for reminding the bell-ringer that it
was time to strike the bells, was an almost inevitable product of this
life. If the mechanical clock did not appear until the cities of the
thirteenth century demanded an orderly routine, the habit of order
itself and the earnest regulation of time-sequences had become almost
second nature in the monastery. Coulton agrees with Sombart in
looking upon the Benedictines, the great working order, as perhaps
the original founders of modem capitalism: their rule certainly took
the curse off work and their vigorous engineering enterprises may
even have robbed wadare of some of its glamor. So one is not straining the facts when one suggests that the monasteries-at one time
there were 40,000 under the Benedictine rule–helped to give human
2: The Monastery and the Clock

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1
Where did the machine first take form in modem civilization?
There was. plainly more than one point of origin. Our mechanical
civilization represents the convergence of numerous habits, ideas,
and modes of living, as well as technical instruments; and some
of these were, in the beginning, directly opposed to the civilization
they helped to create. But the first manifestation of the new order
took place in the general picture of the world: during the first seven
centuries of the machine’s existence the categories of time and space
underwent an extraordinary change, and no aspect of life was left
untouched by this transformation. The application of quantitative
methods of thought to the study of nature had its first manifestation
in the regular measurement of time; and the new mechanical conception o£ �ime arose in part out of the routine of the monastery.
W
Alfred h1tehead has ernphasized the importance of the scholastic
belief in a universe ordered by God as one of the foundations of
modern physics: but behind that belief was the presence of order in
the institutions of the Church itself.
The technics of the ancient world were still carried on from
Constantinople and Baghdad to Sicily and Cordova: hence the early
..
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f1
H
TECHNICS AND CIVILIZATION
enterprise the regular collective heat and rhythm of the machine; for
t he clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, hut of
synchronizing the actions of men.
Was it by reason of the collective Christian desire to provide for
the welfare of souls in eternity by regular prayers and devotions
that time-keeping and the habits of temporal order took hold of
men’s minds: habits that capitalist civilization presently turned to
good account? One must perhaps accept the irony of this paradox. At
all events, by the thirteenth century there are definite records of
mechanical clocks, and by 1370 a well-designed “modern” clock had
been built by Heinrich von Wyck at Paris. Meanwhile, hell towers
had come into existence, and the new clocks, if they did not have,
till the fourteenth century, a dial and a hand that translated the
movement of time into a movement through space, at all events
struck the hours. The clouds that could paralyze the sundial, the
freezing that could stop the water clock on a winter night, were
no longer obstacles to time-keeping: summervor winter, day or night,
one was aware of the measured clank of the clock. The instrument
presently spread outside the monastery; and the regular striking of
the hells brought a new regularity into the life of the workman and
the merchant. The hells of the clock tower almost defined urban
existence. Time-keeping passed into time-serving and time-accounting
and time-rationing. As this took place, Eternity ceased gradually to
serve as the measure and focus of human actions.
The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern
industrial age. For every phase of its development the clock is h oth
the outstanding fact and the typical symbol of the machine: even
today no other machine is so ubiquitous. Here, at the very beginning
of modem technics, appeared prophetically the accurate automatic
machine which, only after centuries of further effort, was also to
prove the final consummation of this technics in every department
of industrial activity. There had been power-machines, such as the
water-mill, before the clock; and there had also been various kinds
of automata, to awaken the wonder of the populace in the temple,
or to please the idle fancy of some Moslem caliph: machines one
finds illustrated in Hero and Al-Jazari. But here was a new kind of
CULTURAL PREPARATION
15
power-machine, in which the source of power and the transmission
were of such a nature as to ensure the even flow of energy throughout
the works and to make possible regular production and a stand–·
ardized product. In its relationship to determinable quantities of·
energy, to standardization, to automatic action, and finally to its
own special product, accurate timing, the clock has been the fore­
most machine in modern technics: and at each period it has remained
in the lead: it marks a perfection toward which other machines
aspire. The clock, moreover, served as a model for many other kinds
of mechanical works, and the analysis of motion thai accompanied
the perfection of the clock, with the various types of gearing and
transmission that were elaborated, contributed to the success of
quite different kinds of machine. Smiths could have hammered thou­
sands of suits of armor or thousands of iron cannon, wheelwrights
could have shaped thousands of great water-wheels or crude gears,
without inventing any of the special types of movement developed
in clockwork, and without any of the accuracy of measurement and
fineness of articulation that finally produced the accurate eighteenth
century chronometer.
The clock, moreover, is a piece of power-machinery whose “prod­
uct” is seconds and minutes: by its essential nature it dissociated
time from human events and helped create the belief in an inde­
pendent world of mathematically measurable sequences: the special
world of science. There is relatively little foundation for this belief
in common human experience: throughout the year the days are of
uneven duration, and not merely does the relation between day and
night steadily change, hut a slight journey from East to West alters
astronomical time by a certain number of minutes. In terms of
the human organism itself, mechanical time is even more foreign :
while human life has regularities of its own, the heat of the pulse, the
breathing of the lungs, these change fr�m hour to hour with mood
and action, and in the longer span of days, time is measured not
by the calendar hut by the events that occupy it. The shepherd meas­
ures from the time the ewes lambed; the farmer measures hack to
the day of sowing or forward to the harvest: if growth has its own
duration and regularities, behind it are not simply matter and motion
16
TECHNICS AND CIVILIZATION
CULTURAL PREPARATION
but the facts of development: in short, history. And while mechanical
time is strung out in a succession of mathe�ati�lly isolate? ��·
organic time–what Bergson calls durat10n-1s cumulative m its
\ effects. Though mechanical time can, in a sense, ·be speeded up or
run backward, like the hands of a clock or the images of a moving
picture, organic time m�ves in only one direction-through the
cycle of birth, growth, development, decay, and death-and the
past that is already dead remains present in the future that has still
to he horn.
Around 1345, according to Thorndike, the division of hours into
sixty minutes and of minutes into sixty seconds became common: it
was this abstract framework of divide

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